Friday, May 1, 2020

Corona Fridays: We must remember what we're learning

On the second Wednesday in March 2020, the world officially shifted, but few of us noticed. 

Not much changed on that day. We went to work, attended school, stopped for groceries on the way home, The day was not etched in our memories like 9/11/2001 or 11/22/1963, or 12/7/1941, or 10/28/1929.

March 11, 2020, however, is considered the official start of the COVID-19 pandemic, so declared by the World Health Organization (WHO). People were already dying; however, mostly in places where we weren’t. 

Six weeks later, over 200,000 thousand (and probably more) had died worldwide and over 60,000 in the US. Today, it would be difficult to find any person over age 5 who hasn’t felt the pandemic personally: from small business owners who have closed their doors, to high school seniors who will never dance the night away at prom, to health care workers frustrated by the lack of personal protective equipment for themselves and their patients, to panicked seniors in nursing homes which have become virus hotspots. 

There are hundreds of thousands of different stories happening every day … tragedies, comedies, stories of courage and cowardice, greed and generosity, inspiration and abject depression. Most of these will be lost in the normal fog of memory long before this pandemic is actually over. That’s the way memory works … only the sharp, momentary memories last, making such deep impressions that we remember the details of the day, where we were, who we were with, how we felt.

This pandemic, the most significant, 
widespread event of our generation, 
deserves to be remembered. 

The pandemic is proving to be a universal teacher, revealing things about us personally, as cultures, and as a planetary society. Many have already described it as a wake-up call, although our normal reaction is to go back to sleep. When an event continues over a long period of time, something called interference writes current events over previous memories until yesterday is a fading shadow.

How can we remember the lessons of the pandemic? 
Make notes.

If someone asked you today if you would forget this pandemic, you would most likely respond, “Of course not!”  How could anyone forget the isolation, the lost sports and movies and cultural events, school children with no schools to go to, millions of unemployed with no incomes? How could you forget the sight of kangaroos hopping through an empty street, the crisp views of the mountains from the LA basin, the heartbreaking images of bodies being loaded onto a semi-truck in New York City, the unsafely-distanced, assault-rifle-bearing protestors screaming at police wearing protective face masks?

But, you will: it’s the way our brains work. There’s only one way to truly capture these memories and lessons … take notes, now, in real time. Whether it’s in a journal, an electronic notebook, photographs or videos, or letters to yourself, a child, or your cat …  record the pandemic from your own perspective. What was life like Before Corona and what did life become After Corona?
Harvard Health Publishing stated in an article on memory:

"You are most likely to forget information soon after you learn it. However, memory has a use-it-or-lose-it quality: memories that are called up and used frequently are least likely to be forgotten.”
Each of us has different circumstances that influence our individual perspectives … people who have lost loved ones see it differently than people who have not been touched by sickness. People who can work from home are less affected than small business owners or gig employees who no longer have an income. And, single moms doing everything including home-schooling their children live in a different world from retirees on Social Security.

Tell your story

Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, stated, "Whoever survives a test, whatever it may be, must tell the story.” Wiesel made it his life work to bear witness to the genocide committed by the Nazis during World War II.

Each of us does not have to make this our life’s work, however, making notes on your pandemic experience will help you make sense of it and could help your children and grandchildren better understand a challenge being experienced by the entire planet in a way that changed everything.

Questions to help you get started:
  • Where was I when the coronavirus became real to me?
  • What new awarenesses do I have now?
  • How have my values changed during these days?
  • What have I discovered about myself?
  • What have I missed most?
Corona Curiosity: My note-taking “journal"

I am a blogger and a photographer, so by early March, I already needed an outlet for all I was seeing, learning, and feeling. Since I had recently started making small, photoessay books, it made sense to start one for the pandemic. Most of these little books are about 30 pages, mainly photos and a few words. 
I didn’t realize the pandemic would be so big or go on for so long. By the end of April, it was at 72 pages and growing daily. Obviously, it was going to have to stop somewhere. 
At this writing, I still don’t know when the pandemic will end, nor when Corona Curiosity will be complete. However, I do know that doing this work is helping me feel grounded as I observe the reactions of the world, try to find the lessons, and feel more gratitude for my life and health and for the friends and family who are on this journey also.
You can see Corona Curiosity in it’s work-in-progress state in a magazine format here: Corona Curiosity, day-by-day glimpses of a pandemic. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been adapted for phone viewing yet.

If you have any questions about how to capture your pandemic notes or tell your story, I would love to hear from you ... just leave a comment below. 
Stay safe and find ways to feed your creative spirit. 

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